Should Videos be a part of your Marketing Strategy?

Video-Marketing-Plan

A cat runs across a room and slides easily into a box that had, up until a second ago, seemed impossibly small for the fat feline to squeeze into. The cat and the box hurdle across the floor and collide into a nearby wall with a thump. But, to your surprise, the cat is not hurt. In fact, it seems happy. It appears as if it really wants to be in the box. You laugh, hit “share”, and wait for your friends to watch the video, too, knowing they're going to love it just as much as you do. maru_the_cats_boxes

We've all seen these kinds of viral videos. And they go viral for a good reason: They're funny, cute, and just plain entertaining.

It makes sense, then, that a lot of companies want to follow suit and make their own videos, hoping to bring this viral attention to their brands. They want a taste of that fame, to bring in a bit of fun and excitement to liven things up a bit. It's not rocket science, right? And it shouldn't be too difficult to include videos as a part of your marketing strategy, right?

Well, that's true... and it's not true. Vague, we know. But we'll explain below, so read on to find out more!

The Pros of Video Marketing:

Videos keep attention longer than blog posts.short-attention-span

If your video is short (roughly under 5 minutes) you're much more likely to hold someone's attention. Many people don't want to read until the end of a lengthy blog post, so why would they want to slog through a long video? However, if a video is short and engaging, they're much more likely to stick around.

So do longer videos ever work at all? Is there any point in even making a long video anymore? Actually, there are some cases in which, yes, longer videos work better. They're the best option for tutorials, because many times you'll have to go quite into depth with the topic at hand. The videos can be edited for extraneous fluff, but even if they're still longer than five minutes after the editing, people won't really mind. They're going to pause and take notes anyway so that they can follow along.

Fun to watch, easy to share!

If you make an entertaining video, people are going to have fun watching it. Even if you're trying to make a traditional educational video, there are still ways to brighten things up a bit and make sure that everyone watching has a good time. Infusing a bit of humor, using colorful graphics and upbeat background music, and having good cuts and editing all go a long way!

When your audience really connects with a video, it's only natural that they're going to want to share, especially with friends who have similar interests. This means that as the video spreads across networks, you're more likely to get more regular viewers. The best part? You don't necessarily have to spend any money to do this. Like any other social network, sharing is built into most video marketing platforms. All you have to do is keep making great videos, and your audience will grow.

People enjoy seeing the inner workings of things.

Videos have a special way of allowing us to take everything in: We see what is going on, and we hear what is happening. We cannot touch, taste, or smell, but a video is still much more immersive than, say, a blog post. People feel like they get behind the scenes of your business, and that gives them a connection that possibly didn't exist before. It lets them get closer to you and to the brand, and that's a great way to make a lasting impression.

seo-videoThey can help with SEO and traffic.

Naturally, videos will show up in searches if they're relevant enough. This will help with your SEO and rankings. Having a YouTube channel rank alongside your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn is immensely helpful. People are keen to click on videos in search results--it's easier than skimming through a wall of text. So really, it's one more great way for your customers to find you and interact with you!

Bonus: Because you can link to your site as well as social media profiles from your YouTube profile page, you can drive traffic from the YouTube page to your other sites without any effort at all. If you want to go an extra step, you can include interactive hyperlinks in your videos to allow viewers to click and go straight to your site from the video screen.

Note: There are many other sites aside from YouTube that you can use to host videos. Check out more information on creating a video marketing strategy and choosing a video hosting platform at Vidyard.com!

The Cons of Video Marketing:

They can take a lot of time to make.

Unfortunately, videos do take quite some time to make. If you're making an educational video, you're going to have to outline everything and spend a lot of time making sure everything you do is clear and concise. If you are making something funny, you'll have to write a script—it's much more difficult to make something creative and spontaneous than you probably think it is. And if you're making a straight-forward video about your company, you'll have to make sure everyone is dressed professionally and understands what you're doing. Making videos is a very involved process, so it's something you'll have to consider heavily before undertaking the project.

video-productionTo appear professional, you must have a budget.

This relates to the time spent on the video... because if you spend a lot of time filming and putting together something of high quality, you're going to need an editor. And to get the good equipment required, you'll need to have a budget. Furthermore, to promote your videos, you'll more than likely have to spend money on advertising. You can find some good information on that process at Content Marketing Institute.

If your company doesn't have a large budget available for videography, there's no need to worry. There are sites out there that can help you create a decent setup that looks professional enough for very little money.

You'll also need to come up with creative ideas for videos to be effective.

As mentioned above, you can't just take any old idea and put it into a video. In order for your videos to be effective, you're going to have to be a little bit more creative than you may have been in the past. Try collaborating with your employees and staff to come up with ideas. If you already have a creative team, sit down and brainstorm. All of this is time-consuming and it can be difficult to agree on things, but if you can pull it off, it's worth it in the end!

Moderating comments can be a pain!

YouTube is notorious for its terrible comments. Even if you choose to do short videos via Vine or Instagram, you're still going to get unpleasant or spammy replies. For some platforms, you can choose to leave comments off altogether to take care of this problem. Other platforms don't offer that option. Most people who make videos want to facilitate conversation around the content, though, so they invite people to participate. So if you choose to use a platform where you can moderate your comments, you'll quickly find that it can be a real pain. However, if you want to keep your company image clean, you're going to have to get rid of the duds. This can take some dedication to vigilance, so it's definitely something you'll want to consider beforehand.

Of course, let's not be all negative here. You're going to get some positive comments, too—we're just trying to make it clear that it's important to be aware of the potential difficulties that can arise with commenting systems.

So what do you think? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or are you pretty much set against including videos as a part of your marketing strategy?

At Internet Local Listings, we make videos for all clients who sign up for one of our marketing packages. These are basic videos designed to help you with ranking, and our turnaround time is fast. If you want to get started with videos now, visit us and we can help you get started!

Back to Basics #28: Getting the Most Out of Twitter

getting-the-most-out-of-twitter

How many followers do you have on Twitter? Do you talk with other people on a daily basis? Do you get people clicking through to your website or your blog?

If you're feeling a little lonely in the follower department and haven't really seen any new traffic to your site, you're probably feeling a little frustrated. But don't despair--this doesn't mean that you're doomed to remain this way forever!

That's because in this article, we're going to show you a few simple things you can do to get more out of Twitter. None of these tips require a ton of your time and energy. In fact, many of these are simple little tricks that you can easily implement into your regular social media strategy, and you don't have to spend a dime.

So let's take a look at how you can get the most out of your Twitter account!

Fill out your profile completely.

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Image courtesy of http://instructionaltechtalk.com/how-to-join-twitter/

This might seem obvious, but it's absolutely crucial that you fill out your profile and don't leave anyone guessing at anything. Twitter gives you plenty of space to make your page unique, so take advantage of that! Create unique graphics to place in your profile picture and header, and make sure you've listed all your important information: Website, location, and a description of what services you provide. Finally, make sure your handle is descriptive of your company. For example, if you're a plumber, choosing a name like plumber50432 probably isn't helpful to your followers. But you could choose ChicagoPlumber or ThePlumbingKing or something like that—you get the picture.

For your convenience, here's a checklist of your profile necessities:

  • Profile picture
  • Header image
  • Bio filled out
  • Website listed
  • Location, if possible
  • Descriptive handle

Find people in your industry to follow.

twitter-follow

A lot of new Twitter users don't want to follow people in their industry or field because they think it's pointless to follow their competition. But that's not true at all!

Twitter allows you to peer directly into the marketing plans of other companies that provide the same services you do. If you really think about it, you'll begin to see how wonderful this can be for your own marketing strategy. Back to our plumbing example: If you see other plumbers tweeting about a brand new kind of sump pump, retweet them or compose your own tweet about the topic. If you see a plumber who links to a creative contest on his or her website, you can use that as an opportunity to use that as a model for your own contest. Take a look at those with the most followers and see how they build their profiles and interact with others. Chances are, you'll be able to learn something and you won't even have to pay a cent!

Make lists of influential people.

This is a great way to make use of all those influential accounts mentioned above. An easy way to collate your most influential accounts is to add them to a list. To do this, go to the person's profile, select the gear icon, and then click “Add or remove from lists”. You can then name and describe the list, and select whether you want it to be public or private. If you're watching your competitors, you may want to change it to private. But sometimes adding people to a public list can be beneficial—they might add you back or other people might subscribe to your list so they can also follow your influential accounts! We've included some helpful (hopefully) screen captures to better illustrate this process:

example-list1

Select the gear icon, then click "add or remove from lists."

example-list2

If you don't have a list created, select the "create a list" option.

example-list3

Name your list, fill out a brief description, and choose whether you'd like it to be public or private. Save and you're done!

Follow back relevant accounts.

follow-back

It's not always going to be you who finds the best accounts to follow--sometimes people will find you, too. Keep track of your followers by using a tool such as Tweepi or ManageFlitter. If you find people who are relevant to your interests, go ahead and follow them back! If they're not, then there is obviously no obligation to do so. We suggest taking the time to block bots as well. After all, they don't add anything to the conversation, and they aren't real fans.

Oh—and while we're on that topic, never purchase fans. Even if you're desperate to look like you have more than five friends (which, let's be honest, we all would be!), don't pay for followers. Just keep finding relevant accounts and following them, and soon you'll get people following you back.

Use appropriate hashtags.

If you think hashtags are just words used as slang, you're in for a surprise! Truthfully, it's not very effective to use Twitter without them. Hashtags are a way for people to find important topics and conversations in real time. Whether you're looking for information on roofing expos or you simply want to chat about the hottest new shade of nail polish, you can probably find hashtags that will appeal to people looking to follow that topic. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to help you find popular topics and coordinate your posts with current and relevant conversations.

Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of hashtags:

  • Don't use too many in one tweet. Two, maybe three tops.
  • Hashtags tend to do better when included in a sentence or placed at the end of the tweet.
  • Don't use any punctuation or spaces. Hashtags only support letters.
  • If the hashtag is long, try making it easier on the eyes by capitalizing the beginnings of words. I.e., #SocialMediaStrategy.

Use photos every once in a while.

twitter_sand_re

People will read interesting text tweets, especially ones with links or hashtags. But think about it: Which would you find more appealing—a plain ol' string of text or something with a bright, beautiful photo by it? Of course your eyes will be drawn to the photo. So take the time to include a photo with your tweets on occasion. You could attach an inspirational quote, a picture of a project you just did, or a new product you're offering in your store. Be aware that photos do count against your character quota, so you'll have to plan for a shorter tweet if you want to use a picture!

Retweet others and ask for Retweets.retweeting

Finally, don't exist in a vacuum on Twitter. No one wants to see a stream of self-promotional spam from a single account. Take the time to retweet others, or tweet interesting articles that you find on blogs and websites you enjoy. A general rule of thumb to follow is that you should stick to 80% tweeting about topics relevant to your business but not necessarily self-promotional; and then the other 20% of the time send out tweets promoting your own business.

You can also ask for retweets! Many people respond to a simple request for retweets—just don't overuse this tactic with every tweet you send out. And be sure to retweet those that you follow who ask for shares as well!

Well, there you have it. With these tips, you'll soon see your Twitter follower count growing and your engagement soaring! You can easily start doing these things on your own, without hiring any special assistance.

If you have any other great tips, leave them in the comments below!

New Social Media Trends You'll See in 2015

Social Media Trends in 2015

As the year 2014 draws to a close, many of us are looking forward to a nice, relaxing holiday. And it's well deserved--2014 was a busy year for us! But for marketers? Marketers tend to struggle with letting their brains completely relax, and so are already looking ahead to 2015 and analyzing social media trends to figure out how to plan an even better marketing strategy. So let's talk about marketing with social media. What can we expect to see in 2015?

While we don't think we will be seeing tons of innovation (more on that below), we will see an increase in what's already becoming popular: More visual content and more mobile content. Let's take a look at some examples:

E-Commerce will take off

E-Commerce

 

Image courtesy of Mashable.com

Earlier in the year, Facebook and Twitter began playing around with “buy” buttons that appeared alongside content. This made it so that users could easily make purchases with just a few clicks, and they'd never even have to leave the network.

And guess what? It seems they're doing pretty well with it.

You can expect this to continue into 2015, with many advertisers pushing hard to integrate this strategy in the top social media sites. By sticking that button in there, it not only increases the likelihood that someone will purchase something from your website, it also gives hard sales numbers for analysts to keep exact track of data. Before, this wasn't possible. And considering that currently, over half of all mobile searches lead to a purchase, you can see why it makes marketers so giddy. So if you want to be on top of the e-commerce trend, you're definitely going to be ready to implement these changes in the coming year.

Social media marketing will be even more popular

Social_Media_Marketing

 

Content strategy was a central theme to marketing in 2014. And guess what? It's going to be sticking around for 2015. But this time around, marketers are going to press for a content strategy by leaning heavily on social media distribution.

What does that mean? Basically, there were a lot of companies that created content in 2014, but a good percentage of them didn't bother to amplify this content through social media channels. And to be honest, that's just silly. Promoting your content through popular social media platforms should be your primary goal in terms of content marketing. Your reach and visibility is greatly increased through social media. If you need more proof, you can read more here, here, or here. Take your pick :)

You're going to see even more new networks

elephants-being-social

 

Yes, we know, we said right away in the article that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of innovation. So you might be wondering: If this is the case, then how can there be so many new social networks popping up? Ello, Yik Yak, and many others have burst onto the scene, so what gives?

Well, there's always going to be someone new, someone trying to take a slice of the pie that is already being shared between social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. But will they last? Many of these new sites promise true privacy (and this is a draw to many with all the recent privacy breaches), but even if they deliver, it's still incredibly difficult to make a dent in the already over-saturated social media scene. A large number of new social media platforms end up feeling incredibly empty and lonely, which directly goes against the primary reason people use social media in the first place: to be social!

So while you're going to see lots of new, shiny sites to sign up for, don't worry too much about being on top of every new trend: Many aren't going to last. It's still worth it to be aware of the trends, though!

Have you noticed any other social media trends that you think are going to be big in the coming year? Let us know in the comments!

Holiday Shopping with Social Media

holiday-shopping-with-social-media-2

As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, ads for the upcoming shopping season can be seen everywhere: From the mall to the grocery store, it seems there's always a reminder that the holidays are sneaking up on you, and your window of opportunity nabbing the best gifts is closing. But whether you're the type who wants to go out and get all the best products on Black Friday, or you're more the kind of person who procrastinates until mid-December, you're still always looking for a great deal! After all, you don't want to spend more money than you have to, and you definitely want the whole shopping process to be as painless as possible. And that means you're probably going to do your fair share of shopping online. But in 2014, online shopping can be a lot more than just logging on to your favorite store and filling up your cart. You can also utilize the power of social media to do your holiday shopping.

By using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, you can easily find what you're looking for in multiple places. You can quickly compare availability, prices, and more. Even better, you can read reviews and get feedback on any items before you add anything to your cart. Sure beats the old way of doing things, doesn't it?

Here are a few ways you can use social media for your holiday marketing strategy—and maybe even use some of these tips yourself when you go shopping!


 

Holiday Marketing with Twitter

twitter-for-small-businesses

In a survey conducted among 500 US adults, 36% said they wanted to use Twitter for holiday gift ideas. Another 35% admitted they used the social media platform to find links to the business's online store.

Now, in case you didn't know, 284 million people are on Twitter and active every month. That's a lot of potential business.

Furthermore, 4 in 10 consumers who are active on Twitter plan on beginning their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. That leaves about a week and half from the publishing of this article to get your store holiday-ready! You can begin by tweeting about special deals, ask your followers to "please retweet" your updates, and direct people to your store for coupons or special checkout codes. Perhaps you could offer a "new followers" coupon for your new fans. Think outside the box on this one--people who use Twitter want to get information and get it fast. If you deliver it in an attention-grabbing way, you're sure to get a few new eyes on your merchandise.


 

Holiday Marketing with Facebook

facebook-logo

With Facebook, you are provided a more “permanent” platform to advertise to your fans. Permanent is in quotes because, of course, Facebook is actually moving at a rapid pace--updates seem to come and go quickly, and the feed refreshes constantly. But fans can easily find apps or albums that you've set up on your business page to promote your holiday specials. You can make your page visually appealing and full of content to entice your audience. Plus, sharing on Facebook works a bit differently than sharing on Twitter does—people get more personally invested. Family members are likely to share with one another over Facebook, whereas Twitter tends to foster more professional connections. When was the last time you tweeted your grandparents? (or grandchildren!)

A good place to start is with two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to AllFacebook.com, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are growing into a quarter-long phenomenon. They urge businesses and advertisers to “capitalize on lower reach costs and high consumer engagement before and after peak days.”

Yeah, yeah, that's nice. But what does it mean for small businesses?

Basically, that you can promote your great deals before and after days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best returns. But that doesn't mean you should only focus on those days. You should also keep promoting your business's specials throughout the holiday season, because shoppers will be buying more heavily until Christmas.


 

Holiday Marketing with Pinterest

pinterest-logo

If you haven't gotten into the habit of posting to a Pinterest board, you might want to start: 47.7% of holiday shoppers say that Pinterest has influenced their buying decisions. That's a lot of people!

But just how can you make the most out of your pins and get people interested in your products? It'll take a bit of creative thinking, but if you try, we bet you can come up with a variety of effective marketing strategies. For example, you could try making a themed board. You can showcase great gift ideas. You can create a storyboard where a shopper uses your product to bring happiness to friends and family. You can show how other customers choose to use your products to make their lives better. It's all in how you choose to present yourself!

We hope that these tips have been helpful for you. The holidays are a great time for helping customers get the special gifts they want for friends and family. By putting your best foot forward, you can prove to your community that you are dedicated to their needs, and that you're ready to help them make this holiday season the best one yet!

Can you think of any other ways to use Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest for holiday marketing? It's always a learning experience, and everyone gets different results. But with a little bit of practice and creativity, you can learn how to get more sales, happier customers, and better engagement during the holiday season. If you have any tips or tricks, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Good luck!

How to Use Social Media for Customer Service

using-social-media-for-customer-service

We've talked in the past about how a company can use social media to improve business: From keeping your existing customers happy through regular updates and promotional offers, to creating and promoting valuable content to draw in new customers, social media can be one of the most powerful tools in a small business owner's toolbox. But that's just one way to use social media. Drawing in customers isn't the only thing you can do efficiently with it—you can also appease existing customers by using your social media accounts to quickly provide excellent customer service.

In this article, we'll give you a few tips on how you can easily start making use of your social media accounts to provide customer service!

 

Social Media is More Efficient

happy-chat

When you visit a website for technical assistance or support, you expect to easily find the company's contact information. No one wants to click around and dig to find what they came for. Customers also don't want to fill out some contact form and wait hours (or sometimes even days) before someone finally gets back to them. Nor do they feel like waiting on hold! Nowadays, people want immediacy--in fact, they demand it.

Using social media for customer service allows you to achieve that immediacy.

Of course, the downside to this is that you'll have to have someone available to answer all customer support questions quickly. But if you're serious about providing these services for your customers, there is a simple way to do this—interns, social media managers, and/or smart phone apps. Depending on your budget, you may only be able to afford one of these things, but with a little effort, you can find a way that works for you.

 

Catch Negative Feedback Before it Blows Up

happy-corgi

Another way you can use social media for customer service is to monitor your brand name as well as specific keywords: specifically, for complaints about your brand. If you reach out and respond to these complaints quickly, you may be able to smooth over some of the problems that customers are having, and provide a satisfactory solution.

Ideally, you should be doing this on a daily basis. Your customers expect quick feedback to their complaints, and negative posts can spread faster than you expect them to! By making an effort to assuage these issues at the very beginning, you may even be able to get the person to delete their post. It's worth a shot.

However, you should take note that searching for customer complaints to respond to is really the most effective when the complaint has been made publicly.

What do we mean by that?

Well, if the complaint in question is part of a twitter conversation that seems casual, such as between two friends, it's probably not a great idea to butt in. Many times, people feel like brands monitoring them too closely is bordering on creepy!

So, long story short: Use your best judgement and try to intervene in sticky situations when you think it will do the most good.

 

Use Social Media to Respond to Questions and Requests

happy_customer

If you see your customers asking you the same questions over and over, you will probably have to make some changes around the office. Whether your customers are unclear about your pricing options or have questions about shipping and delivery, you can use their feedback as a way to bolster your business and make it even better. Ensure that your customers can find the answers to their commonly-asked questions efficiently: Then, you can offer a number for them to call or ask them to connect with you on social media if they have any further suggestions for you, or need any extra clarification.

Think of it like a free, non-invasive way of asking your customers to take a survey. You get all the good feedback at no cost to you!

 

Hopefully, with these tips, you can begin to make some improvements to your customer service strategy. But we're sure there are plenty of other ways you can go about it. Can you think of other ways that you can use social media for customer service? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #21: Thinking Outside the Social Media Box

thinking-outside-the-social-media-box While there are tried-and-true methods to growing your social media following and keeping your customers connected through social media, sometimes your efforts seem to stagnate. Maybe you hit a stride of nice growth, but then discovered that it plateaued. Or maybe you've been on a steady climb, and still see growth happening, but really want to push your social media presence to the next level. Whatever it is, you're ready to try something a bit bolder, a bit louder, and a bit more... well, scary. It's out of your comfort zone, but that doesn't mean that you have to avoid it. Let's talk a bit about what you can do to start thinking outside the social media box and really getting into your stride as a business owner and marketer!

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Find A Few Friends.

No, we don't mean find a few friends like the ones you're already following back, or the ones who are related to you. (Even if your mom is always going to be your #1 fan... sorry, mom.)

What we mean is, find the big names in your industry and connect with them.

Take the time to do a little research around your type of company—who is active on social media? Is there a particularly interesting website or blog that you could start following? Whose name frequently gets brought up in the news? Once you've found these people, start paying attention to what they're doing. They're obviously a credible resource for a reason, and that's more than likely because they interact with fans, provide valuable content, and frequently update their blog and/or social media sites. You're probably trying to do all this already, but when you have a role model to emulate, things get that much easier.

Here are some more helpful tips to try once you've found a few new friends:

Do:

  • Retweet/share/pin their articles.
  • Leave a friendly compliment or start a helpful discussion on their blog posts.
  • Ask them for their opinion on something in your niche.

Don't:

  • Engage with controversial topics with them.
  • Subtweet (that is, tweeting about someone else without actually tagging them) snarky comments or get upset if they don't respond to you.
  • Blast anyone publicly if they don't agree with you.

dummies-self-promotion

Advertise less.

We know what you're thinking: “Isn't the point of social media to help me with marketing and advertising? Why would I want to advertise less?”

Well, because without even being aware of it, you might actually be driving away people with constant self-promotion.

Basically, social media has its own set of etiquette and rules—in fact, each platform tends to have different etiquette standards and rules for connecting with fans. For instance, on Twitter, it's acceptable to post many times in a day—it's fast paced and the information is kept brief, as well as generally unobtrusive. Facebook, on the other hand, tends to show big posts with pictures and videos, and to see a stream of media from the same person or company is aggravating to many users. But if there's one thing all platforms have in common, it's this:

It's a big no-no to constantly advertise your own services.

To keep people from getting irked with your updates, you should always follow the 80/20 rule: Post 80% other content—like industry news, other followers' posts, etc.--and 20% your own content.

Here are some helpful ways you can implement this idea:

  • Don't make your advertising posts hard pitches; i.e., “Click here to buy dog food now!” Instead, keep it light and craft an interesting title to entice click-throughs: “The #1 best thing you can feed your dog: It's cheaper than you think.”
  • Link back to older blog articles. If you have a content marketing schedule, go ahead and tie that in with Twitter, Facebook, and whichever other sites you use. You worked hard on your old posts—so be sure to link them again! This doesn't make it seem like you're “selling” anything, but you're still directing traffic back to your site.

good-job-note

Show off your reviews.

We've talked before about how important reviews are for ranking. But reviews aren't only important for this reason—they're also a leading influence on how customers perceive your business, as well as how customers choose which business to support. According to a 2013 survey from Bright Local, 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more. [Edit: Here is the updated 2014 survey!] That's no small number—so it makes sense that you should promote the ones you have!

This should fall under the same guidelines of self-promotion, however. Constantly linking your reviews comes off as spammy and self-absorbed. When you're on social media, you want to present an honest picture of who you are and what your business is about. Occasionally linking a new review and thanking the customer for their time is a good practice to get into—and it's not going to make you look bad.

Try these helpful tips the next time you link your reviews:

  • Place a few testimonials on your site. If you can, take them directly from the source and link back. Testimonials without links seem fake to many visitors—so take that worry off their minds by citing your sources (just like you did in those pesky term papers!).
  • Publicly respond to any bad reviews you receive (unless they are abusive; then it's best to just report or ignore them). By doing this, you show that you care about your customers' experiences and are willing to listen to their complaints and concerns.

stay positive

And finally...

Whether you own a small home-based business or run a local chain of businesses, it's in your best interest to keep a positive attitude. It can get discouraging to to run your own social media sites, and we get that. In fact, we wrote an article about how to handle these feelings of discouragement! But when everything stacks against you and it seems like nothing you're doing is working, remind yourself that this all takes time. Brainstorm ways you can get your voice heard. Talk to friends, family, customers, and other business owners to see what they recommend. Be willing to learn from mistakes and go that extra mile. In the end, you will make progress if you keep trying, and keep an open mind while at it.

Got any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Back to Basics #18: When Should You Automate Updates?

scheduling-updates We've talked before about how you can take a load off your shoulders by scheduling your social media and blog updates. But, as with any automated services, there's a point where you need to draw the line. Your followers and fans don't want to interact with a robot, after all—they're there because they enjoy what YOU have to offer.

So how do you know when to automate your blog posts and social media updates, and when to interact with your fans?

Automate for hours you aren't awake.

Sure, it's not the perfect time to post at 3 am on Twitter—not for everyone, anyway. But many businesses have customers who reside on the other side of the pond—and they're awake during those hours. So it's a good idea to schedule a few tweets to go out when those other eyes will fall on your page. As for platforms like Facebook and Google+, it's best to figure out when you get the most interaction. For many people, the best hours are earlier in the day, local time. If this is the case, you don't necessarily have to automate your updates. However, you might choose to do so if you know you're going to be forgetful about it!

Going to be busy or out of town all weekend? Automate your updates.

Of course it's ideal that you be around to interact with your fans and followers no matter how busy you are. But the reality of life is that we have to unplug every once in a while.

But just because you're gone doesn't mean that you can't still engage your audience. By scheduling a few posts to pop out when you're away, your fans will still be able to see what you're up to, the content you want to share with them, and products that they might want to buy.

Keep a balance of 80/20: 80% promoting other people, 20% marketing your own products.

People don't like to see a constant stream of advertisements coming from the accounts they choose to follow. If the only updates you ever offer are hard sales pitches, you'll find that your social media presence and blog subscriptions are going to go nowhere fast. A good way to keep this balance is to schedule some retweets or shares during the day. This way you can be sure that you're still contributing to discussions without coming off as overly sales-y.

Reuse old posts—schedule them to pop out at some time in the future.

What do you do with old blog posts? Well, as long as the content is “evergreen” (meaning that you could read it three years from now and it'd still be helpful), you can schedule the posts to pop out in the future.

For example, let's say you write an article about cleaning your gutters yourself. This is probably the most useful in the fall, but that's not to say it can't be helpful at other times of the year! Posting it once every few months across your social networks can help drive traffic back to your site. By scheduling them in advance, you won't have to think too much about it, or try to remember a few months down the road. It'll already be ready for you!

homer-simpson-doh

When should you NOT automate your updates?

  • When dealing with customer service--people want responses from humans, not robots.
  • When you have a fan or follower trying to get an answer to a specific question. For example, “How long is your sale going to be on?” shouldn't elicit a response based on the fact that a person contacted you (i.e., “thanks for connecting!”), or worse—radio silence.
  • During a time of national crisis. Too many brands have forgotten to take off their scheduled tweets or updates during an unexpected crisis, and as a result, they came across as insensitive—even callous. Even if your company's services have nothing to do with the crisis at hand, sometimes it's just best to stay silent for a little while.
  • When someone follows you (this is primarily geared toward Twitter users). When you follow someone on Twitter and they send you an automated direct message welcoming you (or asking you to buy something), how does it make you feel? Annoyed? Yeah, it probably doesn't really make you want to interact with the person. So don't do this to your followers. Send a personal greeting if you like, but whatever you do, don't spam them.

What do you think? Do you automate your posts? When should someone avoid scheduling updates? Let us know in the comments below!

7 Helpful Social Media Management Tools for Small Businesses

busy-business-owner When you own your own business, it is time-consuming enough to try to manage all of your daily tasks—but you know you have to get them done if you want to be successful.

You probably also know that nowadays, you have to be on social media if you want to bring in new business. But what if you simply don’t have the time to keep up with everything? What if you’ve tried and tried, and still, you are spending too much time doing repetitive tasks which take away from your normal schedule?

In this post, we’ll give you 7 tools that you can use to help automate and better organize your social media updates. Most of these are useful for almost any social media site you can think of, but several focus specifically on Twitter. Why? Because Twitter demands more time and attention to be effective than do sites such as Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn. If you’d like to know more about scheduling updates, check out our post on how to improve your social media strategy.

With that being said, let’s dive in and start with one of our absolute favorites: BufferApp.

1. BufferApp

bufferapp

BufferApp is a free app that you can install on your phone or browser. With just the click of a button, you can “queue” tweets, Facebook and G+ posts, and LinkedIn and App.net updates. With the free version of Buffer, you can queue up to 10 updates at a time across each social network, and you can choose to have them appear whenever you like. For example, if you have a promotional event coming up and you want to post an update a week before the event, once two days before, and once the day of, you can schedule the posts to pop out at those specific times. But that doesn’t mean you can only schedule one update a day, of course—if you want to schedule ten tweets in a day, you can! Plus, you can save and rearrange schedules as needed. And if your updates get out of order, you can drag and drop them into position. It’s easy and intuitive, so it’s perfect for the small business owner who doesn’t have much time to dedicate to updates.

Another great feature of BufferApp is the curated content. If you’re running low on ideas, Buffer features 25 shareable updates that you can add to your queue. From quotes and inspirational articles, to posts about improving your business, you can find tons of interesting things here without having to scour the web.

Bonus: With the “Awesome” plan, you get a lot more versatility with your posts. You can have multiple schedules running—for example, run one Twitter schedule for the weekdays and one for the weekend—and you can queue many more posts at once, saving you time for the entire month if you so choose. Analytics is also available to Awesome plan subscribers, so you can easily see what times your customers are responding to posts, how many people are engaging, and who is sharing your updates.

Explore BufferApp’s features here: https://bufferapp.com/

2. HootSuite

hootsuite

Similar to Buffer, HootSuite offers you the ability to schedule updates. You can even auto-schedule messages between chosen times. But there’s a downside—unlike Buffer, which allows you to schedule up to 10 updates at once with the free version, HootSuite’s free account only allows you to schedule one update at a time.

But if you’re willing to pay $9.99 a month for the “Pro” plan, HootSuite gets way more in-depth than BufferApp does.

For starters, if you subscribe to the Pro plan, you can manage 35 social media profiles—far beyond BufferApp’s “big five”. You can also schedule up to 350 updates at a time. Furthermore, you get advanced analytics reports telling you who is sharing your updates and when, and you also get training from “HootSuite University” to help you understand all of the features that HootSuite offers.

But if you’re on a small budget and only want the free version, don’t worry—you still get lots of flexibility. Import up to 2 RSS feeds to capture and publish content from your blog or other blogs. Connect your social media profiles and organize them into tabs to sift through the important information you want in seconds. And of course you’ll be able to see basic statistics such as retweets, mentions, likes, plus ones, etc.

Check out HootSuite's plans here: https://hootsuite.com/

3. RavenTools

raventools

RavenTools is a godsend for companies that want everything from analytics to social media all under one convenient dashboard. Raven is different than the previously mentioned apps, because it works on all site data (not just social media) behind the scenes and presents it to you in graphs, reports, or emails—whatever you'd like. For example, you can set up your campaign to include reports compiled from your Google analytics data, or you can do keyword research to see which keywords you should be using in your advertising campaigns. Raven also helps you send out press releases though PRWire, manage your blog posts, and set up AdWords. When you've decided on all the information you'd like, Raven can run a report and deliver it to you.

And what if all of these features don't really interest you?

No worries. Like all of the other tools mentioned so far, Raven can schedule updates for social media accounts; however, it is presently limited only to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

The downside to Raven is that it costs money from the get-go--$99 a month for the Pro package. So if you're looking for something powerful and all-encompassing, Raven's well worth the money. But if you need something simple, you would probably be better off looking elsewhere.

You can find more information on RavenTools here: http://www.raventools.com/

4. Social Oomph

socialoomph

With Social Oomph, you can manage unlimited Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net accounts from one dashboard. Social Oomph probably has some of the most in-depth features of any social media management system. For example, if you sign up for a free account, you can tweet up to 12 times in 60 minutes, but if you pay for the “Pro” package, you'll be able to tweet as often as you like. You can also set up your Twitter account to auto-curate people you follow into your lists, find friends based on keywords, and deny spambot follow requests. You can save and reuse drafts of all your social media posts (not just Twitter)—so if you have something you'd like to post about on a regular basis, Social Oomph has you covered.

You can many get bonus features by signing up for the “Professional” package, with a number of billing options to choose from. You can also purchase certain upgrades for only Twitter if you need more tweeting versatility, but are fine with the free options already provided for Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net.

We can't list everything Social Oomph does here, so check out their site and take a look for yourself: https://www.socialoomph.com/

5. Tweepi

tweepi

Tweepi does many of the things Social Oomph does, but it's used purely for Twitter accounts. One of the handiest features that Tweepi offers its subscribers is the follow en-masse option, as well as the “date unfollowed” feature. For example, you can search for people to follow by keyword, and Tweepi will bring up a list of people you might be interested in. If you like, you can select everyone on the page and follow them simultaneously. You can also unfollow them simultaneously if you need to. Tweepi diligently tracks when you've followed and unfollowed Twitter users so that you don't accidentally ditch someone or re-follow someone you've unfollowed in the past. This is particularly handy when you see that you've followed someone a month ago and they're still not following you back. Time to unfollow that user!

Tweepi also allows you to look at other Twitter users' lists and follow the users on that list. Or you can check out who follows one of your idols and grab those accounts. You can also purge people who haven't tweeted in a long time. You can even view a list of people who are following you, but you aren't following back.

All of this is available with the “Pro” account for $14.99 a month, or you can use the basic package for free. You will have limited options with the basic account, though, and to be honest, it's not really worth using for free when you compare it to something like Social Oomph. You also can't schedule updates—Tweepi is solely for finding and purging people from your account. But don't underestimate its power in that regard: it is very helpful if you want to grow your following quickly.

You can find out more about Tweepi's features here: http://tweepi.com/

6. If This, Then That

 

iftt

If This, Then That is far too versatile to cover in such a short section, but we'll do our best to show you how exciting it can be. And once you start using it, you'll wish you had known about it sooner.

The idea behind this app is that you can set up one event to trigger another. For example, every time you post a picture to Instagram, you could have the photo automatically sent to your Dropbox account for a family member to download later. You could set up your phone to send you a weather report once you've entered a specific location. You can even send yourself wake-up calls.

For social media management, you can cross-post to multiple social media platforms at once. Or you could even combine ITTT with BufferApp and feed your RSS through Buffer to make sur that you tweet without spamming. There are so many things you can do... and it's all free.

The downside to ITTT is that it's not meant to queue up multiple social media updates. This is meant to help organize your daily tasks and simplify your life—something a small business owner can surely appreciate.

Find out more about all of the cool recipes you can make here: https://iftt.com/

7. Dlvr.it

dlvrit

Dlvr.it is similar to IFTT in that you can set up “recipes” for one event to trigger another. For example, you can set up your RSS feed to go automatically to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You can also manually schedule posts if you'd prefer to do it from Dlvr.it's dashboard. It's a way to syndicate your content in a number of areas with very little effort.

Dlvr.it is not really meant to schedule updates. Again, it's meant to simplify and organize your life. All you have to do is plug in your RSS feed and your new stories will pop out on a variety of social media platforms. You don't even have to think about it. Plus, you'll get analytics and geographic data to see if your posts are drawing in your audience.

As with all of the other services we've covered in this article, Dlvr.it is more useful when you pay for the “Ultimate” or “Enterprise” plans. Although it's versatile on its own with the “Pro” plan, you'll get faster feed updates with more inputs if you upgrade.

Check out dlvr.it's features here: https://dlvr.it/

There are so many reasons that small business owners should consider automating updates: to save time, to ensure a regular update schedule, and to keep your profiles active. But with this being said, you need to remember that this will never take the place of interacting with your customers. Engagement is an integral part of your social media marketing strategy.

Can you think of any other apps that you like using? Let us know in the comments!

Back to Basics #15: Do it Like a Small Business SEO Company

small business team seo company By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles about how you, as a small business owner, can learn how to do SEO to benefit your own business. You may have read about how important it is to be on Twitter or Facebook; you probably saw studies claiming that a specific keyword density is key to ranking well; you may even have considered buying links to get more traffic.

It can all be confusing. It can be expensive. And honestly? It sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, does it?

Well, we’re here to help you out. In this post, we’ll show you five easy ways you can get involved with your company’s marketing campaign just like a small business SEO company would do. With these tips, you’ll begin to see results that definitely pay off.

plagiarism comic

Image courtesy of: Olive Harvey College Library Guides

1. Make friends with Copyscape. Are you writing your own content? Have you tried optimizing your front page or started a blog? You'll definitely want to look into using Copyscape. For no cost, you can enter your site's address and Copyscape will scan the web looking for plagiarized text. If your blog or site content have indeed been plagiarized, it can hurt your rankings. Furthermore, if you're using references in your writing, you might want to run your text through Copyscape. The last thing you need is to be blamed for plagiarism from your end. Make sure your content is 100% original all across the board, and you'll be better off for it.

2. Make content easily shareable. When people read an article and enjoy it, they immediately look for the “share” button. They want to tell their family and friends about the great thing they've just read. It would follow, then, that if you don't include sharable links at the end of your post, you've just potentially cost yourself thousands of views. Be sure to make it easy for your visitors to share your content to all the most popular social media platforms, and you'll notice that your content will be shared more frequently. If you need help figuring out how to set this up, there are plenty of tutorials around the internet as well as easy-to-install plug-ins for blogging software such as Wordpress.

3. Get your customers involved through reviews. We've written about this in the past, but it's so important that we feel we should reiterate here: your customers need to be involved with your company through reviews. There's a fine line between asking and encouraging your customers to participate willingly, and pushing your wishes in their faces aggressively. You can encourage customers to leave reviews by putting a sign up in your store, offering a coupon as compensation, or even provide a free service with proof of a positive review. Reviews not only help people searching for your services find your store, they also help you stand out in the crowd. Searchers nowadays rely on sites such as Yelp to help them make decisions about which business they want to give their money to. Don't let this opportunity slip through the cracks—you'll be surprised at how much good reviews can help.

pay per click advertising for small businesses

4. Consider PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. If you're just getting your business off the ground, we'll be honest: It can take some time for Google to start picking it up and ranking it. But that doesn't mean that you can't make the most of the time in between. You can purchase ads from Google for only a few dollars a day and they'll appear alongside search results related to your keywords, helping guide visitors to your site. Google ads allow you to get the word out about your site in ways that organic ranking can't; at least not in the beginning. Check out Google's free keyword planner to take a look at keyword suggestions you can use in your ad campaigns.

5. Try your hand at video advertising. A big part of advertising nowadays is visual. Think about it: If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you probably share images and videos all the time! That's why it's important that you get into the habit of creating media content for your company's social media sites. People are much more likely to share media than they are to read through a “wall of text”. Furthermore, video advertising helps a lot with SEO and ranking. Google gets strong ranking signals from videos and the keywords used in them. Even if you don't have a big media budget, you can still put together helpful “how-to” videos or showcase happy customers recommending your products and services.

You can do it like the SEO companies!

With these tips, you can easily dip your toes into the waters of advertising and marketing. It might sound cliché, but if you don't start small, it'll be too much for you to manage all at once and you'll feel as if you're drowning. You can do it like the small business SEO company professionals by trying these few simple tips! And as always, if you need help and advice, Internet Local Listings is here to help. We offer everything from business listings to custom content to personalized websites! Visit us here for more information.

Any other tips you can think of that we missed? Let us know!

Back to Basics #8: Social Media Trends: Do Small Businesses Need to Keep Up?

social-media-trends

social-media-trends-for-small-businesses Small business owners: Are you tired of hearing about the importance of social media? Have you started up a Facebook page or Twitter account and decided that it’s just too much effort for too little payoff? Well, you’re not alone. Many small business owners feel that social media trends don’t offer a lot for their companies—what’s popular today might be gone in a couple of months, after all. And who wants to spend a lot of time building up a following just to find out that there’s another new social media network out there?

Unfortunately, you still need to be harnessing the power of social media. Even if you don’t keep up to date with social media trends, you will find that there are certain staples that are here to stay—at least for a few years. And that’s plenty of time for you to invest in your followers and customers to make sure they connect with your company.

The number of small businesses jumping on board with social media trends is only growing.

Did you know that…

  • 88% of small businesses use LinkedIn.
  • 84% of small businesses use Facebook.
  • 74% of small businesses use Twitter.
  • 58% of small businesses use Google+.

(statistics taken from HeidiCohen.com)

And the numbers are only growing. Many small business owners who haven’t begun social media marketing yet say that they plan on implementing a strategy within the next year. Those who already have often say that they want to step up marketing efforts and track results more carefully. If you’re in the former camp, check out our articles to learn more about what social media is, and how to develop effective social media marketing strategies on a small business budget.

Text and photos aren’t enough anymore—you need to try out videos.

Another one of the top social media trends for small businesses is the growing usage of YouTube. Companies are happily producing their own visual content for their customers. According to a small business survey conducted by Verticalresponse.com, 35% of the small businesses they surveyed said that they used YouTube as a part of their regular marketing efforts. With the number of free video creation programs available on the internet now, it’s become much easier for even the most non-artistic person to make informative, engaging, and SEO-friendly videos. You can actually have a lot of fun creating videos for your customers—think of them like visual blog articles. You can talk about a variety of subjects relating to your industry. For blogging ideas, check out our article here and apply some ideas to your video content. The videos don’t have to be stiff and “corporate” in appearance--you can make them as unique as your company.

But what about the competition? How do you keep up?

Yes, it’s true that your competition will likely be using social media just as you are. And it’s also true that as people join social media sites, you'll have more competitors. You'll be competing not only for business, but for your content to even be seen in the first place! Think about it: If the average Facebook user has, say, 300 friends, how many posts do you think they’ll see in a day? A lot. Now think of all the companies they’ve “liked”. There’s going to be a lot of competition to be seen on their news feed.

Unfortunately, as the user base for social media sites grows, the competition levels get continually tougher. And usually the only way around this is to start paying. You can pay for ads to be placed on a target demographic’s page, or you can “boost” your posts to make sure they stay on top of a news feed. You’re certainly not forced to do this by any means—but remember this as time goes on.

Whether you’re new to social media or you’ve been working on it for years, there’s no way around it: small businesses must stay on top of social media trends if they want to see organic growth online. This isn’t to say you must spend 24 hours a day on social media; however, with regular updates and time investment, you’ll see your engagement growing and your efforts paying off.

And if social media trends are just too much for you to handle right now...

If you need help managing your social media accounts, visit Internet Local Listings and take a look at our internet marketing packages. We’ll be happy to help you get whatever you need to be seen online--whether it's social media, a new website, or local business listings!

Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Mobile marketing tips for small  businesses Today more than ever, it’s important for small businesses to optimize their websites for mobile access. According to statistics released by Strategy Analytics, as of 2012, more than one billion people used smart phones to access the internet. But to be brutally honest, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices load slowly and look terrible—and smart phone users immediately leave a site if this happens to them. And can you blame them? If you are browsing the internet, you don’t want to have to feel like you must solve a puzzle in order to use a website! So if your small business website isn’t optimized for mobile, that is a lot of potential business you’re losing out on. What can you do to remedy this?

In this article, we’ll take a look at three great mobile marketing tips for small businesses.

Mobile Marketing Tip #1: Responsive Design

As mentioned above, mobile web design needs to be implemented in order for smart phone (or tablet) users to browse your site effectively. Responsive design is a type of web design that detects which device a user is using to access your site, and adjusts the screen accordingly. This reduces load time, simplifies form submission (who likes typing out tons of information on a phone keyboard? No one, that’s who), and makes the site look professional and clean no matter how your visitors are logging on. Your customers deserve to have the best experience possible, and you owe it to them as a professional business owner!

Mobile Marketing Tip #2: Optimize Your Social Media Accounts

According to Constant Contact, up to 91% of local searchers use Facebook to find business online. When you sign up for Facebook as a business, you can fill out your location, business hours, phone number, and any other important local information. When a visitor finds you via search, they’ll be able to see all of this information displayed neatly on their mobile device. Setting up a Facebook account is easy—it takes fewer than 10 minutes to get the basics down. Plus, it’s free!

Setting up Twitter is also simple. You can localize your Twitter profile by filling out the “location” section, and add your website or contact information in your profile header. Many people search on Twitter for businesses, so make sure that you can be found easily and quickly by completing your profile fully. Like Facebook, Twitter is also free to use.

The bottom line? If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you could be missing out on a large amount of mobile traffic. And because both platforms are free, there’s no excuses!

For more information on social media marketing for small businesses, check out our article here: Developing Successful Social Media Strategies.

Mobile Marketing Tip #3: Opt-in for Text Messaging

This tip is a bit tricky, particularly for small businesses just getting into mobile marketing. You can allow your customers to opt-in for text message alerts. But here’s the catch: text messaging is pretty private, even if the customers DO want to sign up for alerts. So texts should only be sent when you have something better than normal to offer—a 24 hour sale, a limited inventory, or for a limited-time item that’s almost sold out. Allowing someone to opt-in can be a great way to get a customer back into your store and purchasing your products, but you have to remember to respect their boundaries.

Check out this resource to get started on building your website with responsive designs:

http://www.cio.com/article/2387279/developer/7-tools-to-build-websites-using-responsive-design.html

Or you can always visit Internet Local Listings and check out our websites. With our premium website packages, you’ll get 100% customized websites that look professional and are completely mobile responsive!

Do you have other suggestions for mobile marketing tips for small businesses? Leave them in the comments below!

How to Find the Best SEO Services for Small Business

seo services for small business If you’ve found your way to our blog, you’re probably doing research on how to find the best SEO services for small business. Chances are that you’re a small business owner yourself—or maybe family or friends are local business owners. Whatever the case may be, you’ve come to the right place. Internet Local Listings is an SEO company with over fifty years of combined experience in the internet marketing industry. And throughout the years, we’ve helped small businesses just like yours increase traffic to their websites.

Before you invest in an internet marketing company, there are a few things you should consider. At Internet Local Listings, we’d be honored to have the chance to show you just how we can help your company be seen online. But how do you know you’re choosing the best SEO services for a small business?

Must-Have SEO Services for Small Business

The company will get you listed across the internet. One of the most important things for a small business is to be found in local listings and directories. This means that your company name should pop up in places like Yahoo listings, Manta, Whitepages, Brownbook, and so on. The more places your company name, address, and phone number appear, the better chance your customers have to find you no matter which directory they choose to use. Think of it as the new way to use the yellow pages.

You’re being provided with a social media platform to reach your customers. In this day and age, everyone is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a number of other social media sites. If you don’t have a strong social media presence online, you’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with customers—and you’re probably losing sales, too. A good SEO company will build social media platforms tailored to your company so that your customers and find and interact with you online.

You’re seeing fresh content and updates. If your company offers custom-created content for you, it should be updated on a regular basis. Not all websites have blogs, however, and if this is the case for your small business, you should at least make sure that your website is up-to-date and your social media sites are serving as a mode of timely communication with your customers.

The company offers a website package. A company offering custom-tailored SEO services for small businesses should have a website option. Many small business owners don’t know how to build a site, much less have time to update it regularly. Internet marketing companies need to understand this to be able to cater to a small business’s needs. Be wary of the SEO service that doesn’t work with you to make sure you have a great website.

The company doesn’t promise the moon and stars. This sounds negative, but it really isn’t. SEO is a complicated business— and because of this, many small business owners don’t understand the ins and outs of the industry. And that’s fine. After all, that’s why you’re hiring the pros! However, it’s important that you arm yourself with basic knowledge of how the marketing process should work. It’ll save you the heartache of partnering with people who don’t understand how to work with a small business, or worse, a company that promises to deliver everything when really, there’s no magic formula to get everything working in a short amount of time. Plus, it will instill realistic expectations and the patience you need in order to work with the pros so that they can get the results you’re looking for.

The long and short of it is, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. You can’t expect results that blow your competition out of the water overnight. It’s simply impossible to pull off!

How to Know if You’re Working with an Honest SEO Company

Now that you know what the best SEO services for small business should offer, how do you know if the company you’re working with is being honest and upfront about your account? How do you know if you’re investing in a successful long-term plan, or if you’re being taken for a ride?

An honest SEO company will get you listed in local directories immediately and then go to work on other marketing services—blogging, building a site, setting up a social media platform, etc. Ranking will come in time. An SEO company can set everything up the way Google likes, but Google will take its sweet time combing through data and reorganizing search results. You will see your hard work pay off in a first-page ranking—but it takes time.

That being said, if your SEO company promises to get you ranking in 30 days for any keyword, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re going to be sorely disappointed. At Internet Local Listings, we can get you ranking in 60 days or less for two keywords—and sometimes more! Even though this might sound paltry to a small business owner who has never invested in SEO, this is a realistic and effective goal. Ranking for only two keywords at Internet Local Listings, we’re confident that we can get you real results you can see in a reasonable amount of time.

An honest SEO company will also tell you if things aren’t working out as planned. At this juncture, you can work together with the SEO service to tweak keywords, or you might choose to find other ways of getting your name out there. With high-competition industries it can take a bit more legwork, but you will still see results if you stick with it. There’s no magic formula to success, so you have to be flexible and think long-term for the best results! A dishonest company will not want to put the time in to work with you on these things. Don’t let this happen to you.

Choose Internet Local Listings for SEO Services for Small Business!

Whether you’re looking for a simple small business SEO package or you’d like something a little more in-depth, we have it all at Internet Local Listings. We hope you enjoyed this post, and we would be honored to take care of your small business’s marketing needs. Simply fill out the contact form or give us a call at (888) 770-3950! See how our affordable SEO services for small business can help you.

3 Easy Google Ranking Factors to Implement on Your Website

Google Ranking Factors, Google Logo Learning to market your own website can seem like an extremely daunting task, particularly if you’re new to being online. But there’s no need to worry. All it takes is learning a few easy tricks and you’ll start seeing improvement on your site’s ranking. So what’s the easiest way to improve your site’s ranking without spending a fortune? By learning a bit about content creation. Content creation is one of the top ways you can improve your site’s rankings because Google places a lot of value on websites with valuable content. This means that the successful sites update often with helpful posts. Google also particularly likes posts with pictures and great formatting that includes using bolding and italics. In this post, we’ll go over the top 3 easiest Google ranking factors to start implementing on your site—once you’re armed with this information, you’ll be ahead of the game!

Update frequently.

Google is constantly caching new data. As such, it’s important that your site stays up to date by posting fresh content frequently. This doesn’t mean that you need to update every hour, or even every day—but at least once a week should help. Easy topics include posting about what your company is up to, any specials you’re running, or events that are on the horizon. But don’t just promote yourself—always find ways to connect with your customers and engage them in a conversation. If you find yourself running low on post ideas, try thinking outside the box a bit. What would your customers like to learn about? What are some related interests that your readers might find useful? For example, let’s say you run a dog grooming studio. You might try writing about:

  • The best hairstyles of the Westminster Dog Show
  • The top foods to feed your dog to keep his or her coat healthy
  • Little-known facts about dog breeds throughout history

Your clients would find all of these posts fun, entertaining, and useful, and they’ll surely enjoy coming back to check out your site to see your new content. You can use these posts as a way to pitch your business as well—just include links to relevant products and services at the end of the posts!

Use images in your posts.

Not only does this make your post look better, but it is actually one of the easiest Google ranking factors to understand and implement. Most blogs allow you to set a “featured image” before you publish a post. You’ll need to upload a relevant picture and name it something descriptive. For example, the title “dog grooming scissors” is better than just “scissors”. Set this phrase as the image’s name and as well as the “alt” text. Why? Because images on-page deliver strong relevancy data through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption. Plus, when others share your post on Facebook or Twitter, the picture will show up with the text. People are much more likely—in fact, 42% more likely—to click on links with photos, so it’s a win-win all around! Here are a few key things to remember:

  • You’ll find the file name, alt text, title, description, and caption in your blog’s image editor. Wordpress makes it very simple and intuitive. You can do it all from an organized “dashboard” while you’re crafting your post.
  • If you’re having trouble understanding how to use an image in a post, here is a great tutorial at ManageWP Blog. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this already!

Use title tags and repetition.

This time, let’s say you run a salon, and you want to make sure that the search engines know that you have the best salon hair products. You’ve uploaded your image appropriately, and now you’re set to write your content. So how do you make sure your content stands out among the competition? There are two main things to consider. You don’t need to understand a lot about marketing to do this—it’s simple and easy. The first is to include the keyword in the title. This makes sense. If you’re writing about salon hair produts, be sure to put that in your post’s title. It’s that simple! Ideally, you should put the keyword toward the beginning rather than close to the end, but this doesn’t really make that much difference. To illustrate, an example would be:

  • Salon Hair Products: Worth the Price Tag?
  • Why Everyone Should Invest in Salon Hair Products

The first title would be better simply because “salon hair products” appears at the beginning of the title. However, both utilize the keyword, so they’re both good choices.

Keyword Repetition

One of the most important Google ranking factors to this day is the repetition of the keyword or key phrase. When Google scans your content, it will pick up on phrases that have been repeated. It will see this as relevant, and thus, you’ll rank higher for that keyword or key phrase. This is all well and good, but it’s also been one of the most heavily-abused ranking practices. You must be sure that when you write your content, your keywords fit in without being referenced too often. There is no magic number to aim for, but use it a few times in a natural way and you should be fine.

More About Google Ranking Factors

There’s so much more to ranking on Google than what was discussed in this article. But the information you’ve received here should help you learn the basics of blogging for search engine optimization! Now, as a small business owner, you can certainly take the time to craft your own posts according to these rules. However, unless you become an expert in the content marketing industry, you won't be able to match the results you'd get by hiring professional writers.  This is also a time-consuming endeavor--you must update frequently to see results. So if you find yourself strapped for time and want to get the best services available, you can always give Internet Local Listings the chance to create great content for you! Simply call us or fill out our form here and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can put all the important Google ranking factors to work for your business.

Back to Basics #2: What is Social Media?

What is Social Media? Globe showing social media platforms. Note: If you’re a social media expert, this post will probably not be of much help to you. But you can feel free to check out our other marketing tips and tricks here, or learn about our internet marketing services here.

Want more beginner tips? Read Back to Basics #1: What is SEO

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What is Social Media?

If you own your own business, you’ve probably been told that you need to set up social media accounts. And while you’re probably already familiar with Facebook and YouTube, you might not know a lot about Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Google Plus. In fact, you might think that some of these platforms have nothing to do with your company or are completely useless in your advertising and marketing efforts.

Well, you would be wrong.

Social media is one of the most powerful tools you can leverage in your advertising campaign. In this post, we’ll talk a bit about what social media actually is, as well as how some of the top platforms can benefit your company—even if you run a small local business.

The Hidden Value of Sharing Content

Simply put, social media is text, images, and videos that can be easily shared across a public platform. It’s a bit like email—you can write your thoughts, include some pretty pictures, and send it off. However, unlike email, social media enables you to share your thoughts and media with everyone across your network at once. And those people can share it with people in their network, and so on and so forth. Plus, you can reach people who you never would have via email!

Are you starting to see now just how valuable this can be for advertising?

You’ve probably heard about certain things going “viral”: Grumpy cat, auto-tuned newscasts, and dancing babies are just a few of the contenders. All the publicity that these folks got originally came through social media sharing.

In other words, it was pretty much free.

Now, we can’t all expect to be the next big internet sensation, but we can use social media to increase customer engagement, gain free advertising, and promote a positive brand image. By understanding the power that social media holds for your company, you will be able to give yourself a leg up on your competition.

How Does this Benefit a Small Business?

Okay, so you’re on board with the idea of signing up for social media accounts now. That’s great! But before you go out and create 15 profiles, let’s talk a bit about the platforms we offer at Internet Local Listings, and take a look at the pros and cons of each. We won’t discuss the other platforms in this article.

First, not every company is built the same way. And not every social media platform will be perfect for every company. In other words, what works for a cupcake bakery probably won’t yield the same results for a roofing contractor.

Second, you should note that managing these accounts takes time and effort—so only sign up for the accounts you think will benefit you the most. You can easily become overwhelmed trying to maintain your accounts, and if you’re not doing a good job keeping up with your customers via social media, you’re not going to be getting the most out of your efforts.

The Platforms We Offer

Facebook Logo

Image courtesy of: http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2014/04/17/facebook-launches-optional-nearby-friends-feature-android-ios/

 

Facebook: Facebook is, hands down, the most widely used social media platform in the world. With over 757 million (yes, million) daily users, Facebook has a wide reach and is an untapped advertising source for many small business owners.

The pros of signing up for Facebook:

  • It’s easy to learn to use—you probably already have a personal account, and running a business page isn’t much more complicated than using a personal profile.
  • It’s free to sign up, and you’ll never have to pay a dime to run your own professional business page if you don’t want to. You can pay to advertise if you so choose, but you’re never going to be forced to purchase anything.
  • Facebook’s reach goes as far as you want it to, but it also has a strong local presence. You can build your network as you see fit for your company.

The cons of singing up for Facebook:

  • It’s oversaturated. Its biggest strength can also be a weakness, particularly for a small business or a new face on the internet. A Facebook page can be difficult to grow from scratch, and the companies who already have an established customer base tend to do the best.
  • Changes in Facebook algorithms mean that paid content is seen more frequently than free content. Basically, because Facebook went public, they’re finding more ways to make money. One of the biggest ways they’ve found is to have users “boost” posts by paying to ensure the content they share is seen by more people. If you don’t want to pay, there’s a bigger chance your content will be swallowed by the paid content.

So who benefits from Facebook?

Although established businesses tend to fare better, starting a Facebook page is an easy and effective way to engage your existing clients as well as inform potential customers about your products. It’s also highly valued by Google and can rank right under your own website—so even if you don’t see much point in sharing updates on Facebook, we’d recommend that every company sign up, even if only for the ranking benefits.

Twitter logo

Image courtesy of: http://mybroadband.co.za/news/internet/79423-top-twitter-users-in-south-africa.html

Twitter: Twitter is probably the most understood social media platform that we offer for our clients. The reason for the confusion is that most small businesses hear about the “trivial” things posted on Twitter—what you had for lunch, a selfie, a dog doing a headstand (okay, that’s actually pretty impressive, right?). What they don’t know is that, when used properly, it can be a rapidly-growing social network, and it offers extremely fast and efficient content sharing. Sharing media on Twitter is practically mindless—one click of a button and you’ve sent off a “tweet” that you find interesting to your followers. They can tweet it to their followers, and so on. You only have 140 characters to work with, though, so you’ll have to get creative.

The pros of signing up for Twitter:

  • Twitter is easy to use and extremely efficient. You can connect with like-minded people quickly and engage in brief, to-the-point conversations.
  • Twitter was made to share links. If you tweet your blog posts or share a photo on Twitter, people will click. It’s very effective to boost page visits.
  • Although there’s a lot of bad content, it’s easily drowned out. Twitter moves fast. Don’t like what a person has to say? Block them or mute them and they’ll disappear from your feed. Want to amplify a positive voice? Retweet that person or tell your followers to follow them. Being social is easy on Twitter.

The cons of signing up for Twitter:

  • There is a lot of self-promotion on Twitter. Yes, you have signed up to promote your business, but the point of social media is to engage. If you’re out there screaming about how you have the best lawn fertilizer in all of Texas over and over again every day, people are going to unfollow you. Finding that balance between self-promotion and sharing can be tricky for newcomers.
  • It tends to be widespread. If you’re looking to connect locally, Twitter might not be the best place to advertise. People on Twitter tend to network from around the globe. Furthermore, most people you meet will probably be other business owners, and you’ll have to find a way to connect with them in a positive way.
  • As mentioned above, it’s brief. It can be frustrating to try to make an impactful statement in 140 characters or less!

So who benefits from Twitter?

We truly believe that almost any company can use Twitter to their advantage. Local contractors can connect with suppliers and other people in their industry. Spas can connect with big-name beauty brands and clients. Artists can network with other artists to promote their work. With a little bit of creativity, you can build a network that helps you in your marketing endeavors.

What is Social Media to you?

There’s a lot of time and energy involved in running a social media campaign—setting it up, scheduling regular updates, networking, answering customer concerns, and running promotions. And we only touched on the two platforms we offer for our clients at Internet Local Listings—there are certainly others to explore. What does your time and money mean to you? Are you ready to take the plunge?

If you’re interested in learning more about Facebook and Twitter or you’d like to hire social media professionals to maintain your accounts for you, simply contact Internet Local Listings here. We’d be glad to discuss your social media goals with you!

Best 5 Benefits of Social Media Marketing

Benefits of Social Media Networking for Small Businesses Has your company been planning a social media marketing campaign? Do you already have a campaign running? Whether you’re a small business with a small budget, or a medium-sized business looking to invest more in a marketing campaign, social media is an integral part of your advertising approach.

If you’re on the fence about utilizing social media, here are the best 5 benefits of social media marketing that are sure to change your mind.

  1. Most businesses report seeing vast improvements in customer engagement when using social media. According to Social Media Examiner, a whopping 92% of small businesses reported their social media efforts generating more exposure for their businesses. That’s no small number of business owners! Makes us wonder what the other 8% saw. This doesn’t take into consideration, however, how frequently the sites were updated, nor does it say how much money was spent in the process.
  2. 3 in 5 small businesses said they gained customers through social media. Amanda Sibley at Hubspot reports that the majority of small businesses found that they’ve actually increased sales simply by staying up-to-date with social media platforms. Even if they didn’t spend a lot of money on advertising, the simple act of updating with fresh content helped them rank better and better communicate with customers.
  3. Social media marketing budgets are expected to double in the next year. So what does this have to do with your small business? It simply means that more people are jumping on the social media bandwagon. Right now, there is still a lot of competition on popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But with visits to Google Plus rising (Google+ receives 1.2 billion visits per month, whereas Facebook nets 809 million),and Tumblr and Pinterest still holding users’ attention up to 4x longer than other sites, it’s worth it to investigate which other social media platforms would benefit your company—and to do so sooner rather than later. The benefits of social media marketing are almost indisputable in this area!
  4. People still read through the ads on social media sites. According to Social Media Today, 60% of LinkedIn users have clicked on an ad on the site, and 43% of U.S. marketers have obtained at least one new customer through LinkedIn. Those statistics alone should make you stop to consider whether your business could be benefitting from networking on LinkedIn. Likewise, other social media sites also have a great effect on traffic: Almost 60% of all social media-referred traffic to B2B websites comes from just three networks: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  5. Mobile coupons placed on social media sites get more clicks. As stated by Local Vox, Mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons and mobile ads get 3x the clicks. By strategically incorporating mobile coupons to your social media marketing plan, you’ll see an increase in customer engagement as well as purchases.

For more information on the benefits of social media marketing, you can contact one of the Internet Local Listings representatives here or read through our plans to see if you’re ready to take the leap into social media!

How to Increase Customer Engagement for Your Small Business

increase customer engagement for small businesses If you’re a small business owner, there’s a big chance you’ve heard the term “customer engagement.” Depending on your level of experience in managing an online storefront, you may not have a clear picture of what it means to have customers “fully” engaged. To some business owners, a highly-engaged customer simply means someone who visits your store—whether in person or online—and purchases a product or service from you. To others, this term means that a customer would have to purchase and come back to use your services again, or perhaps be involved with your website or social media accounts in some way. And it’s true that for different industries, customer engagement will be different: i.e., if you’re a concrete contractor, you’re not going to expect the same return service as a boutique or thrift store. So how can you determine the best way to improve customer engagement for your company?

Know Your Clientele

This is the best answer, but unfortunately,  it’s also very complicated. You may know the basic needs of your clients, but you might be surprised at how in-depth you can really get with the details. For example, if you’re a boutique specializing in women’s clothing, you already know that women are going to shop at your store more often than men. But do you know finer details, such as income level, interests, hobbies, and spending habits? Getting your customers more engaged with your store requires a little bit of research, as well as some finesse in gathering this type of data.

The good news is that social media is the perfect answer to this dilemma. According to a survey done by Avaya’s Autonomous Customer Research, 82% of customers prefer multi-channel engagements—meaning not only do they want to visit you face-to-face in your store, but they probably want to connect with you via email, Facebook, Twitter, or on another social media channel. But why do customers enjoy this?

Simple. They can get all the information they need from the comfort of their own homes. They can stay caught up with your sales and special offers simply by “liking” you or following you online. Don’t you think you owe it to your customers to help them stay connected to your brand in such a convenient way?

How to Improve Customer Engagement

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to choose a few social media networks that you want to maintain. Keep in mind that this is a time-intensive endeavor—if you want results, you’ll have to be willing to spend at least several hours a week dedicated to this part of the process.

That’s why it’s important to just choose a few networks that you know appeal to your clientele. There are so many out there that it would be next to impossible to maintain your presence across each one. Whether you choose Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr, you’ll have to find your strengths and play to them. That being said, here are a few tips to help you increase customer engagement across any social media networks:

  1. Create relationships, not “hard sells”. You are a sales pro, no doubt. But the way you approach customers online is not the same way you’d approach them in the store. People come to your site to browse at home—let them do so in peace.
  2. Make it easy for customers to find you. You could have the best business in the world, but if your customers can’t find you on the web, they’re not going to be calling. Make sure you are ranking on the first page for a set of targeted keywords. Customize your social media profiles with easy-to-find-and-follow links to your site. Finally, be sure your contact information is available. Customers like knowing that they can contact you if they need to.
  3. Provide relevant updates. Customers like to know what your company is up to, but they also enjoy related topics. If you’re a salon, try updating about the latest hair trends. If you’re a contractor, talk about seasonal updates that homeowners can benefit from.
  4. Update frequently. This is a common mistake. Oftentimes, people assume “if you build it, they will come.” This is far from true in the fast-paced world of internet marketing. You need to not only build a strong foundation, but you also need to keep adding to it. Aim to update your site’s blog at least one time a week, if not more. Update Facebook, Google +, or LinkedIn once a day. You don’t have to spend hours crafting a post, but try to keep clients engaged with your site through quality, fresh content.
  5. Respond to criticism. But do so politely. If you have a negative review, evaluate what the customer has to say. Publicly address it so others know that you recognize and care about a customer’s experience. Which brings us to our next topic…

Dealing with Angry Customers

It is not fun to deal with, but it happens to the best of us. You will have angry customers and you will have to find a way to respond to them without looking unprofessional. The best way to do this is to find legitimate complaints and politely respond as you would to a customer in your store. If the complaints are abusive, slanderous, or are coming from someone impersonating your company, you can report them to the appropriate person. Keep on top of this—you don’t want to leave unprofessional or negative comments around!

Want to hire the pros?

Did you know that companies who have a fully-engaged customer base see a 23% average increase in revenue? There are so many reasons you should be online and engaging with your customers—but if you’ve decided it’s just too much of a time investment, you can always hire the pros. Visit Internet Local Listings to see our variety of online marketing packages, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to set up an account. We’d love to help you increase customer engagement and get your site ranking!